Olympics: Being There–Synchronised Swimming

After his first London 2012 Olympic experience at the Dressage, Tom Bodell got his first visit to the Olympic Park to see Synchronised Swimming at the Aquatic Centre.

Going to the Olympic Games in my home country was always going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, at least that was what I kept telling myself when the first round of ballots returned tickets for the equestrian dressage and synchronised swimming.

In the event, the sport I was least sceptical about was the one I enjoyed least out of the two. Sure, the stadia at the Olympic Park is fantastic, and if you don’t have tickets for the Games, make sure you visit afterwards. However, as an overall experience, the dressage at Greenwich Park was peerless.

The organisation in Stratford was a step up even from what I sampled on Thursday morning, and despite large crowds and the threat of an ‘exceptionally busy’ Stratford Tube Station, I was still able to breeze into the Olympic Park complex.

Once inside, you’re free to roam – something which came as a bit of a surprise as I had expected separate venues to be ring-fenced. This wasn’t the case however and I was able to take in the Velodrome, Olympic Park, basketball and water polo arenas as well as getting as near to Anish Kapoor’s Orbit as you could without buying a ticket to go up it.

The aquatic centre is an extremely gracious building for the outside, designed with aesthetics as much a forethought as the science integral to its structure.

From the cheap seats, five rows back and tucked in the right-hand corner, you still get a good perspective of both the diving and regular pools, the latter hosting the synchronised swimming itself.

Synchronised swimming as it turns out, is not a radical departure from then dressage in which, as you may have read after my first experience, I am now an expert! Points are awarded by the judges for the artistic merit and execution of the routine, before being added to each pairs total from the previous day. And, much like the dressage, synchronised swimming is very easy for the novice to pick up. Screens pick up the finer delicacies which are lost under the water and the scores are broken down at the end of each routine.

However, owing to the volume of splashing and the ripples in the pool, certain elements are lost live at the event and this, along with the fact horses are bigger and therefore easier to appreciate, gives dressage the edge over synchronised swimming.

My final action of the Games will be at the Olympic Stadium itself as I take in a session of Paralympic athletics on the evening of August 31; the piece de resistance.

Tom Bodell

The Substantive Columnist Mel Gomes’ e-book Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is now available to preview for free and download for £4.27 from Amazon and Smashwords. It documents football at the highest level and the journey of travelling around Europe following a sport where money is now valued alongside trophies. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.